Iron Man: Rudolf Berthold: Germany's Indomitable Fighter Ace of World War Iby Peter Kilduff
As one of the most successful German fighter pilots of World War I Hauptmann Rudolf Berthold was victorious in forty-four aerial combats. He was also shot down or forced to land after six fights and survived crash landings in every case. Early in World War I, when only fighter pilots were awarded the Kingdom of Prussia’s (and de facto, Imperial Germany’s )… See more details below
As one of the most successful German fighter pilots of World War I Hauptmann Rudolf Berthold was victorious in forty-four aerial combats. He was also shot down or forced to land after six fights and survived crash landings in every case. Early in World War I, when only fighter pilots were awarded the Kingdom of Prussia’s (and de facto, Imperial Germany’s ) highest bravery decoration, the Pour le Mérite, Rudolf Berthold became the tenth recipient of the honor. Of that early cohort of air heroes, only Berthold and one other pilot survived the war. This book tells his remarkable story.
Six weeks into the war, Berthold became the first airman in the 2nd Army area to be awarded an Iron Cross in recognition of his bravery and tenacity in combat. The symbolism of the award was appropriate. Described by one of his pilot protégés as, ‘an Iron Man – with an absolutely unbendable iron will’, he was a dedicated patriot. And, after he became a fighter pilot, he demonstrated a fierce fighting spirit in many encounters with British and French adversaries. All of his aerial combats with other Pour le Mérite flyers are detailed in this book. Indeed, Berthold was so relentless in his approach to aerial combat, when badly wounded, on at least six occasions, he cut short his convalescent leave to return to flying with his comrades. This included a hit to his right arm, which shattered the bone, rendering it useless – undaunted Berthold taught himself to fly using his left.
Peter Kilduff has produced a landmark volume based on extensive research into Rudolf Berthold’s life and military career to form the most complete account yet about Germany’s sixth highest scoring fighter ace of WWI. Illustrated with over eighty photographs and other artworks, many of which have never been published before, Iron Man tells the tale of this ruthless, fearless and, above all, very patriotic fighter whose perseverance and bravery made him one of the most famous airmen of World War I.
“Kilduff presents this tragic story of literally bone-splintering pain and bi-polar psychological effects with tact and empathy….Aficionados of World War I aerial combat will appreciate the way Kilduff presents the battle scenes. He also does a particularly effective job in pointing out the problems in establishing who scored which victory, when and where, even when given access to the war records of both sides.”
Walter J. Boyne "Walt Boyne"
“…Kilduff handles the story of the ace’s life with his usual blend of close attention to detail and unparalleled appreciation of the broader picture. Highly recommended.”
Over the Front
Iron Man ably demonstrates why Peter Kilduff is considered one of the premier WWI aviation historians writing in the 21st Century. This fascinating biography is meticulously researched and documented. Kilduff knows his subject so well he can describe how Berthold confused the events from two of his air fights when writing about them after the fact. Nevertheless, he clearly puts a lot of effort into making his text understandable to those unfamiliar with WWI aviation… Kilduff’s care in explaining the story well extends to the photos he uses in the book – many incidents are supplemented with photos and if there is no photo of the exact plane used, he’ll include a photo of one from the same squadron. Finally, he’s very good at explaining what the aviators were doing to support the ground war – which is why the air forces existed in WWI. Peter Kilduff’s Iron Man is not only great history, it’s a great story.
Steve Subbaby, Past President WWI Historical Association
"...taken the legend of one of Germany's "Pour Le Merite" (Blue Max) aces, and thoroughly deconstructed the history of this 44-victory ace into a readable and cogent form which both corrects and defies earlier attempts by aviation "experts" to pigeon-hole Berthold into negative and less than chivalrous form.…admirable work of historical aviation research and enlightenment, which should appeal to lovers of WWI and WWII history, but more importantly to those among us who value great history writing.
WWII History List
“…invaluable for students of WW1 Military aviation and it is a fascinating read for the general reader”
Dr. Geoffrey Miller, WW I History List
“Iron Man ably demonstrates why Peter Kilduff is considered one of the premier WWI aviation historians writing in the 21st Century. This fascinating biography is meticulously researched and documented …. Peter Kilduff’s Iron Man is not only great history, it’s a great story”.
The Australian society of world war 1 aero historians, MAY 2013
“…extensive endnotes and appendices, which fill almost one-third of the 192 pages, as well as the enormous number of historians [‘ works] consulted…
whoever wants above all to know more about the flier Berthold this book will be very well recommended.”
“an excellent job of bringing all of the information together in a powerful story about a fascinating man who seemed to know no fear.. a fast read that is full of great pictures that really add grandeur to the story content. I feel it is a:must have” for my, your aviation library.”
- Grub Street
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—Steve Subbaby, Past President WWI Historical Association
Meet the Author
Peter Kilduff has been studying and researching aviation history for over fifty years. He was a journalist and professional communicator for over forty years, and retired as Director of University Relations at his Alma Mater Central Connecticut State University.
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